Cadwell Park sits in a beautiful setting in the heart of the rural Lincolnshire Wolds. Originally designed primarily for motorbikes it is narrow, making overtaking and lapping tricky, and its range of fast and slow corners and up and down gradients are a real challenge to drivers.
In many ways it is an anachronism in modern day Motorsport – there are no pit garages, no sand or gravel traps (just tarmac and grass), and no cameras on corners for the officials to view the action on screens in Race Control. Journeys there from whichever direction are lengthy and with most of our drivers based in the south it is a challenge to attract large grids. Having said all that it is an iconic design and if a driver is successful there they will certainly have earned it.
There was a test day on the Friday immediately preceding the weekend’s races and several drivers took advantage of this to learn or re-learn the circuit – Mike Hilton, Jamie Thwaites, Riccardo Losselli, Stacey Dennis (racing there for the first time), Toby Broome and Adrian Norman all participated. Ricky had a grassy moment somewhere and Mike Hilton was trying out a new ECU which turned out to be all flames and no more power so it was jettisoned in favour of the old one. All emerged unscathed however and the weather was hot and dry heralding a great weekend’s racing.
Early on Saturday morning the weather was sunny again but there were predictions of thunderstorms by mid afternoon on various weather websites. However, the track was dry for our qualification session due at 10.20 which got under way almost on time. First out of the assembly area as always was Tom Hill in the Revs Italia GT. Tom seems to get more heat into his tyres more quickly than anyone else and as usual he was ‘on it’ straight away. However, the unthinkable happened for the first time anyone could remember. As he braked at the end of the Park Straight on his out lap the car slowed but went straight on into the barriers. He may have been a bit wide on the entry and braked a fraction too late but it was a mystery. He was able to make it back to the paddock but did not rejoin the session as the damage needed to be repaired. He would qualify by virtue of the 365-day rule but would start at the back of the front section of the grid.
First to show at the top of the time sheets was Jamie Thwaites in the TCR Giulietta with a time of 1:40.88 on his first flying lap. Only on his 6th lap did he briefly lose pole to Ian Stapleton’s mighty GTV6 but he regained it on what turned out to be his 8th and final lap with an excellent time of 1:35.30. This was within half a second of Adie Hawkins’ long standing lap record but unfortunately on his subsequent lap a front hub flange snapped on the Giulietta, a very unusual breakage, and as there was no spare available that was sadly the end of his racing for the weekend.
It was a long time since Ian Stapleton had raced at Cadwell and he took a few laps to reacclimatise; also, since he had fitted the supercharger the car had been running a little hotter than he would like and he had added to the air flow surface area at the front of the car to address this. A lap of 1:37.22 on his 6th tour put him alongside Jamie on the front row but in Jamie’s enforced absence Ian would have the front row to himself.
Scott Austin hoped he had solved the misfire problem that had plagued his 156 at Oulton Park and the qualifying session went well. He drove fairly cautiously for a few laps before turning up the wick on his final 2 laps, recording 1:38.50 on his final lap to snatch 3rd place on the grid from Mike Hilton. Mike had recorded a 1:38.77 mid session before dropping off the pace towards the end. He would line up 4th beside Scott on row 2. Mark Skeggs was next in his GTV, another one to record his quickest times late in the session, a time of 1:44.24 putting him 5th overall. Beside him on the 3rd row would be Riccardo Losselli in the Alfa Workshop MiTO 404. It was a frustrating session for Ricky as the car would just not run cleanly. He endured 4 very slow laps before the MiTO ‘fixed itself’, suddenly leaping into life and shooting him up the time sheets, a lap of 1:45.06 putting him 6th fastest.
Stacey Dennis was 7th with a time of 1:45.59 in the Power Trophy class Giulietta, a little disappointed with her performance having hoped to go quicker after her testing session the previous day, but it was a very respectable effort just ahead of Andy Page’s Giulietta 116. Andy was reasonably pleased – the overheating and coolant loss he had suffered earlier in the season had been remedied and although the car had a slight misfire it was running much better. His best lap was a 1:46.66.
Toby Broome was 8th overall and a 1:47.08 put him on the Twin Spark Cup pole for the first time this season, a position that had belonged exclusively to James Ford previously. James was second quickest some 6/10ths away from Toby. He wasn’t quite sure why but felt he might have set the wrong tyre pressures. Richard Ford was 3rd in class with a time of 1:49.36 with Adrian Norman rounding out the Twin Spark field in 4th with a best lap of 1:52.16.
Paul Webster had had an involuntary absence from racing for some 5 years having experienced an exhausting sequence of mechanical failures in his 147 GTA but a swap deal with Roger Evans had led to him acquiring the 156 GTA raced in the last couple of seasons by Andy Inman. However, one of the rear wheels had erroneously been fitted to the nearside front of the car and as the offset was different it had rubbed away at the brake caliper and front suspension during the session with an obvious negative impact on his lap times. He would line up just ahead of Tom Hill in the front section of the grid for the first race.
Our first race was due to start at 2.35 so optimistically we hoped that it would still be dry prior to the forecasted mid afternoon thunderstorms. No chance. At 12.10 it poured with rain and continued raining hard for quite some time. An early lunch break was called to avoid sending the Hot Hatches out in it. It stopped after a while and the track started to dry. In the Mighty Minis’ race preceding ours there was a definite dry line and as long as it stayed dry then slick tyres would be the definite choice. But it didn’t. As we gathered in the Assembly area it started to rain again, not hard this time but persistently. The Clerk of the Course delayed declaring a wet race for as long as possible. The rain eased off a little briefly so he declared there would be 2 green flag laps but no time granted to change tyres. No sooner had that decision been made than it started to rain harder again and everyone was there on the grid on slicks, excepting the Twin Spark Cup cars who were of course on control tyres. It was VERY slippery out there.
With 550 horsepower and rear wheel drive on massive slick tyres Ian Stapleton’s GTV 6 had no grip at all off the line and was swallowed up by the pack around him as the red lights went out. Mike Hilton behind him had to go around him and Scott Austin’s 156 led briefly approaching Coppice before Mike’s traction control kicked in properly and he surged into the lead in his 4C.
By the end of lap 1 the running order bore little relation to the grid order. The Twin Sparks started on the flag 10 seconds after the front group but had already passed a cautious Paul Webster and a misfiring Riccardo Losselli. Mike Hilton led in the 4C by 2 seconds from Scott Austin, Stacey Dennis had passed 4 cars to take 3rd and Tom Hill had passed 6 cars to go 4th. Andy Page was 5th, 5 seconds clear of Ian Stapleton, with Mark Skeggs a further 3 seconds back in 7th. James Ford was right behind Mark leading the rest of the Twin Sparks: Toby Broome, Richard Ford and Adrian Norman in that order.
On lap 2 Tom Hill passed Scott Austin and Stacey Dennis to go second. Having been in the barriers at Oulton Mike Hilton was determined to avoid a repeat. He still had 4 seconds in hand over Tom but Tom was driving freely, revelling in the conditions and the set up of the GT. At the end of lap 3 he was only a second behind Mike and on lap 4 he passed him, quickly pulling out a 5-second gap as Mike made car preservation his first priority. Meanwhile Scott Austin was again experiencing the misfire problem he had had at Oulton: as soon as he went beyond ¼ throttle the misfire started much to his exasperation. However, the conditions were so atrocious that it didn’t hamper him as much as it would have done in the dry; Stacey Dennis passed him on lap 3 to move into a fine 3rd place overall but Scott soldiered on, pulling away gradually from Andy Page in 5th.
In the Twin Spark group Toby Broome had taken the lead from James Ford on lap 2 and was running 6th overall with James 7th and Richard Ford 8th, followed by Mark Skeggs, Adrian Norman and Paul Webster. After getting wheelspin in 4th gear on the start/finish straight Ian Stapleton decided that it was too dangerous to continue and returned the GTV6 to the paddock on lap 3. Riccardo Losselli was another retiree – the MiTO just would not run cleanly but he kept going to finish 2 laps down in 11th place.
Tom Hill meanwhile was giving a master class in driving on slicks on a very damp and greasy surface, throwing the V6 class GT into the corners and somehow keeping it glued to the track. He stretched the gap to Mike Hilton in second place by 2-3 seconds per lap taking the chequered flag at the end of lap 10 some 23 seconds ahead. Mike took a solid 2nd place ahead of Stacey Dennis – Stacey held the gap to around 3 seconds until lap 7 when it stretched to 6 and then to 8 by the finish, but what an excellent drive by Stacey on a track she’d never driven till the previous day and in appalling conditions, taking 3rd place overall.
The Twin Spark Cup battle was hard fought with Toby Broome holding the lead from lap 2 onwards from James Ford with Richard Ford 3rd and Adrian Norman further back in 4th. Approaching the left hand bend before the Mountain on the last lap James Ford got alongside Toby on the outside and there was contact between them. Toby held on to the lead through the corner but further contact as the cars approached the right hander at the bottom of the mountain resulted in him finishing the race in the tyre wall on the Mountain.. It was most unfortunate to say the least. The Clerk of the Course took the view that James should have braked to avoid contact but he kept the resulting class win and a remarkable 4th place overall. Richard Ford and Adrian Norman took 2nd and 3rd in class repectively behind Scott Austin, 5th in the overall finishing order and 2nd place in the Modified class with Andy Page 7th overall and 3rd in class. Behind Adrian Norman, Mark Skeggs finished 9th overall hampered by a skirmish with the barriers at the Gooseneck on lap 6, and Paul Webster brought the 156 GTA home in 10th, a lap down on the rest.
It had been an eventful race to say the least, lit up by a spectacular drive by Tom Hill to take the overall win, a nicely controlled drive to 2nd place by Mike Hilton and an excellent drive by Stacey Dennis to take 3rd place overall. Nevertheless we all hoped for better race conditions on the morrow for race 2.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
The weather predictions were better for Sunday – cloudy and no rain – but it started raining around 10 o’clock and it seemed the clouds were intent on being uncooperative with the meteorologists. However, it was only a brief Nimbus rebellion and the track was dry for our race which got under way at 12.10.
The Alfa Workshop team worked hard to eliminate the engine/electrical problem on the MiTO, changing everything they could: Turbo wastegate, plugs, remap, etc. Scott Austin continued his search for the cause of his similar problem. The field of automobile electronics is indeed a dark art. Ian Stapleton fitted intermediates on his GTV6, hedging his bets against the fickleness of the weather, Bianco did their usual excellent job replacing multiple damaged items and coaxing the bodywork back into shape on Toby Broome’s car, among other preparatory work.
With a clear track ahead of him this time alongside Tom Hill on the front row Mike Hilton surged into the lead at the start and had a 2 second lead over Tom at the end of the first lap. A great start from Andy Page saw him running in 3rd place ahead of Stacey Dennis, then Ian Stapleton who had passed 3 cars and whose own car had taken on the appearance of a gathering storm. Ian was followed by Scott Austin, still misfiring, Mark Skeggs and Paul Webster. The Twin Spark field was next with Richard Ford leading James Ford, Toby Broome and Adrian Norman.
Last of all was Riccardo Losselli, the MiTO still refusing to cooperate with his right foot. He circulated slowly for 5 laps before retiring. Back in the Paddock the problem was discovered. The clip on the main air intake hose had not been tightened and the hose had blown off with the obvious consequences. The team had kept its sense of humour though: Jamie Porter said to me ‘We operate a no-blame culture in this team’ then pointed jovially at the guilty party and said ‘it was his fault!’ We wish them much better fortune at Brands.
At the front, Mike Hilton’s lead over Tom Hill went to 5 seconds, then 7, then 8, and there it stayed until lap 7. Behind Tom Ian Stapleton had moved into 3rd place and started to reel Tom in – steadily rather than spectacularly, the track and weather conditions still far from ideal for racing. On lap 8 they were level crossing the start/finish line but the awesome power of the GTV6 was now being unleashed. Mike Hilton’s lead looked unassailable at this point – 8 seconds ahead increasing it to 10 on lap 8 – and lapping consistently in the 1:40s with Ian only slightly quicker in the 1:39s. For Ian however, to coin a phrase, it was hammer time. He took 3 seconds out of Mike’s lead on lap 9 and 5 seconds on lap 10. Mike could now see the formidable GTV 6 clearly in his mirrors and was suddenly thinking ‘oh my god’ …or words to that effect. They crossed the line together on the penultimate lap and Ian rapidly pulled away to take a superb race victory, repeating Tom Hill’s feat in Race 1 by doing it from the back of the grid.
Mike took second place with 3 seconds in hand over Tom. Despite the engine problems the impact of which he did his best to minimise, Scott Austin came in 4th to his surprise. Andy Page had been having his best race for some time, running 4th throughout until sadly on lap 9 he coasted to a halt and retired in front of the cafe spectators with an electrical problem. Mark Skeggs took a solid 5th place overall after a trouble free run in his GTV.
Stacey Dennis had been running 5th in the early stages but was another to experience electronic gremlins. The Giulietta somehow went into ‘limp’ mode and her lap times dropped away accordingly, the leading Twin Sparks passing her late in the race. And what of the Twin Spark battle? Again it was fiercely contested with the leading 3 virtually nose to tail almost throughout. Richard Ford got away cleanly from his 2nd place grid slot and was side by side with James as they went through Coppice but he had the inside line through Charlie’s to lead onto the Park straight with James second and Toby Broome 3rd. Toby briefly took 2nd on the inside through Park but James retook the place on the outside of Chris Curve and through the Gooseneck. A frenetic first lap finished with the three starting lap 2 in that order. On lap 3, Toby had a good run out of Charlie’s and by the end of Park straight his momentum had taken him past James on the outside and into 2nd. The three of them continued to lap together and on lap 5 James once again found himself on the outside of Toby going into the left hander before the Mountain. Toby followed close behind Richard but James continued around the outside to reclaim the place and slot in behind Richard as they went into the right hander to climb the Mountain. On lap 8, James managed to get alongside Richard on the outside of Park and went through into the lead. Toby followed and was side by side with Richard who held on to second as they emerged from the Gooseneck toward Mansfield. The order stayed the same thereafter to the chequered flag, James managing to pull clear of his 2 protagonists to take yet another class win with Richard 2nd and Toby 3rd. Adrian Norman had fallen away from this battle and took 10th place overall after a steady consistent drive. Paul Webster was the final finisher, playing himself back in after a long break from racing and improving his lap times throughout the race.
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Tom Hill was awarded Driver of the Weekend after his sensational drive in the wet to take the outright win in Race 1 coupled with a characteristically strong drive in Race 2. We send a big THANK YOU to Kenzy Stapleton for presenting the trophies. We now move on to Brands Hatch for the much anticipated Festival Italia event on 13th August – a big day out indeed in front of large crowds. Don’t miss it!